Republic Nashville April will shower country fans in the form of new music…
- Posted on May 31st 2011 12:00PM by James Sullivan
Spinner recently caught up with James to speak about the new album, the big concert and his plans for an MMJ "synth-funk" record.
Right from your first couple of albums, My Morning Jacket sounded like a band that was in it for the long haul.
Well, thanks. I bet most bands hope they become the Rolling Stones, that they're able to do it forever. For me, ever since I was a kid, I never really considered any alternative. Part of that is that we're finally getting to a place where we're comfortable. We've always tried to make music we felt was timeless. We've tried to avoid putting certain date stamps on our music. That said, it's all personal taste. Some people hear music from the '80s and think it's dated, but a lot of that music is timeless too. We'll still be listening to great Peter Gabriel songs and great Prince songs years from now.
The key to us maintaining longevity is just getting to a place where we enjoy each other. We've had a few memberships -- not that there's any grudges against the people who were in the band before, but we've been lucky to navigate through all that. Carl [Broemel] and Bo [Koster] are no longer new members. They've been in the band since 2004, longer than most bands have been around. We're a really tight little family. It's not like thinking of doing another My Morning Jacket record is some horrible ordeal to go through. It's a wonderful thing.
Your producer on the new album, Tucker Martine, is married to Laura Veirs and has studied Harry Smith ['Anthology of American Folk Music']. We imagine you connected on that.
We did. I was fascinated with that side of him. Tucker, besides the people in the band, he's my favorite person I've ever worked with on a record. His knowledge of the studio is impeccable. Personally, too, he's just a perfect fit for us. He instantly felt like a long-lost member of the band. He just snapped right in there.
The webcast will take place at the super-ornate Palace Theater in your hometown, Louisville. How many times have you played there in the past?
We've played there once officially with the Jacket. We did a Monsters of Folk show there two years ago, and we were part of a radio show there in the earlier days. I've been to a ton of concerts there. My mind's been blown there so many times. Just recently, I saw Willie Nelson there. I've seen him four or five times over the years, but seeing him in that theater was unbelievable. It was like, "This is Willie Nelson. He's still here, he still sounds great and his guitar playing still blows my mind." He's like Django Reinhardt.
Todd Haynes, who's directing the webcast, told the New York Times that he had to play a bit of catchup with your music. How familiar were you with his films when you appeared in 'I'm Not There'?
When I did 'I'm Not There,' it was kind of the same thing. My involvement came together in such a hurry. I had seen parts of 'Velvet Goldmine,' but I wasn't really familiar with his other work until then. On the set, he was a really nice guy. I really respect people who have a vision and can give commands, but who aren't a--holes. It's a beautiful art, to see someone like him or Cameron Crowe on the set. They aren't afraid to tell people what they want, but they aren't throwing their weight around. [The producers] wanted the band to have had some prior experience with the director, and his name came up. We were thinking about how much we love his psychedelic visual style. Hopefully it will turn into a really cool eyeball to view our concert.
Do you take inspiration for your songs from other art forms, like movies?
Oh, my God, absolutely. So many films have turned my brain on. You know how it is --- you leave the theater with movie brain, like you're still inside the movie when you leave. The parking lot looks different. A lot of times I'll just go home, pick up a guitar and come up with riffs. Film is such an all-encompassing experience, for better or worse.
Some people made a big deal out of your last album, 'Evil Urges,' being such a departure for you. To us, it was pretty much another My Morning Jacket album, with the exception of the first two songs.
I totally agree. I didn't feel like it was really that shocking. I look at that album like a video game, with the different worlds -- you're in one world in snow and ice, one in a desert, one in the forest. A lot of times our goal is to make a record that's one cohesive world. For that record, we created a bunch of different worlds. I used to have these dreams -- "This is gonna be our f---ed-up synth-funk record," or our response to Marvin Gaye's 'What's Going On.' But at the end of the day, I can't force myself to write more synth-funk songs. I only have the songs I have.